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How to spend 36 hours in Fort Wayne

How to spend 36 hours in Fort Wayne, Indiana
How to Spend 36 hours in Fort Wayne Indiana

“So I’m going to Fort Wayne this weekend,” I informed my husband over a spotty Skype connection as he sat 5,000 miles away in Russia.

“Where?”

“Remember, that place we went last year with the cool vintage shop… and the fort… and it was so cold we barely saw anything?”

He remembered. I remembered. We all remembered being so cold last year we could barely stand to hop out of the car for longer than a few seconds at a time.

I felt like Fort Wayne deserved a second chance – I mean, I barely saw it! – and when Visit Fort Wayne invited me up before winter set in, I jumped at the chance. So off I headed, just two hours north of Indy, and explored as much of Fort Wayne as I could in just one short weekend. Feel free to pick and choose from my guide to best suit your needs.

NB: the Courtyard Fort Wayne Downtown was kind enough to let me stay with them for the weekend. I can’t recommend the place enough. Not only are the rooms absolutely lovely, but the hotel puts you in close proximity to everything you could want to do downtown. Plus, the views aren’t bad at all! I faced the botanical gardens and a beautiful church; the opposite side faces directly over the baseball stadium!

Saturday Morning

I woke up bright and early prepared for a long wander around downtown. Because of the Courtyard’s close proximity to the convention center, the streets were already bustling even on an early-ish Saturday. I loved it – such a nice contrast to the empty streets of my last visit!

Start your morning with a leisurely wander around the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory ($5, 1100 South Calhoun Street). Just steps away from the Courtyard, the botanical conservatory is the perfect spot to start any day. With a variety of different climates in the greenhouses as well as a lovely outdoor space, the botanical gardens could take up an hour or two of your time depending how you feel about plants.

My favorite bit, aside from the beautiful tropical section? Sitting on the bench outside so quietly I terrified a chipmunk brave enough to pop out of the bushes. Nature and city – who can beat that?

Fort Wayne Weekend: Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory Empyrean Cafe
If you’re a human who – unlike me – requires breakfast, you can pop into the Empyrean Cafe at the front of the conservatory. I recommend relaxing in their outdoor seating with a latte and pastry as you plot your day.

Prices are super reasonable and you can even pick up a plant cultivated in the conservatory right alongside your morning meal!

Fort Wayne Weekend: downtown Fort Wayne
After my morning of leisure, I chose to wander around downtown. It’s hard to miss/not appreciate the beauty of the Allen County Courthouse and its surrounding buildings. If you’re like me and want to know more about the city’s history you should definitely check out Architecture & Community Heritage‘s events page. I was lucky enough to go on a haunted tour of downtown Fort Wayne with ARCH and it was both informative and a lot of fun!

If you haven’t been to Fort Wayne yet, walk north up Spy Run Avenue over the river and visit the old fort. I visited the last time I was in Fort Wayne. There’s also several lovely parks that run along the river, perfect for fair-weather trips.

Saturday Afternoon

Fort Wayne Weekend: Karpeles Museum
Saturday afternoon was an homage to all of the interesting, offbeat museums Fort Wayne has to offer. One of the coolest places I’d never heard of (nor had other people!) was the Karpeles Manuscript Museum (there are two in Fort Wayne, I visited 3039 Piqua Avenue).

Located across the USA in at-risk historic buildings, the Karpeles Museums disply some of the rarest documents and manuscripts in the world. (I saw the first printed map in the world!) Be sure to check out their website before you go as the exhibits rotate over the months.

Fort Wayne Weekend: Wunderkammer Company
Next, head further south of downtown and check out the Wunderkammer Company (free, 3402 Fairfield Avenue) – it’s impossible to miss the heavy graffiti across every wall. The organization has pledged to revitalize communities through contemporary with “exhibitions, educational programs, performances and special events that push boundaries, defy convention, spur conversations – and yes, sometimes court controversy.” It’s the space you wished you’d belonged to when you were a crusty, disaffected teen – very, very cool.

Fort Wayne Weekend FWMOA
Head back downtown for a more traditional museum at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art ($8, 311 E Main Street). As I mentioned on my Instagram, I’m not a huge fan of the traditional museum so the FWMOA was a perfect bite-sized space which could be enjoyed but didn’t overwhelm.

If you get there in the next few days you’ll have a chance to enjoy the incredible Picasso and Léger exhibition they have on. (Is it terrible of me to say I loved all the Léger stuff far more than Picasso?) But no matter when you go, you’ll be treated to the sight of one of Chihuly’s famous glass sculptures as you walk inside – so cool!

After you’re done, I’d recommend grabbing lunch at The Hoppy Gnome ($$, 203 E Berry Street). For meat-eaters there are a ton of lovely options from their fresh-focused, scratch kitchen; for vegetarians like me, the pickings were limited but they do offer several vegetarian and vegan options which are quite delicious.

With a name like that the focus is definitely on the beer, but I actually opted for one of their (marvelous) cocktail options.

Saturday Evening

After you’ve taken a long lunch (or returned to the hotel for a quick nap – guilty!) see everything else downtown Fort Wayne has to offer!

Fort Wayne Weekend: The City Exchange
I started the evening by wandering through the bustling City Exchange (127 West Wayne Street). Full of local businesses ranging from a cold-pressed organic juicery to hipster lifestyle heaven, the City Exchange is trying to bring back the habit of downtown shopping – something that’s fallen to the wayside in many smaller cities!

My favorite shop? The Narwhal and The Manatee, a personalized bath boutique with an emphasis on responsible luxury. I got one of their bath bombs ($8) which lasted for 3 luxurious baths! Lucky for you, they ship!

Next be sure to follow your nose across the street to DeBrand Fine Chocolates ($$, 878 Harrison Street), where you can pick up any number of decadent, gourmet treats!

Fort Wayne Weekend: Tolon
Finish the night with an epic, locally-sourced meal at Tolon (614 Harrison Street). I really appreciated that – while small – the menu was varied enough to offer plenty of options for all diets. I tried a kale salad (something I never thought I’d say!) and several other dishes that really highlighted Tolon’s mission to show off elevated Midwestern cuisine.

Be sure to grab a seasonally-themed cocktail or two with your meal – they’re seriously good!

Sunday Morning

Finish your Fort Wayne adventure with a quick dose of caffeine followed by a leisurely stroll through nature so lovely it’s hard to believe you’re less than 20 minutes from downtown Fort Wayne!

fort-wayne-weekend-20
Rev yourself up with a coffee from Fortezza Coffee (819 South Calhoun Street). Don’t be too intimidated by the swaths of Fort Wayne’s hippest – the coffee is great! Be sure to check out the cool street art just across the street before you hop into the car!

If you veer south (perfect for those going back to Indy), you’ll be able to stop by Fox Island County Park ($2, 7324 Yohne Road). With 605 total acres (and 270 designated as a state nature preserve), Fox Island offers seven miles of trails through a variety of habitats. As you may have guessed by the name, there’s a good possibility you can see hundreds of species – particularly if you go on a quiet morning.

Perhaps even better, follow Branstrator Road for some of the coolest farm/quarry/abandoned house views you absolutely wouldn’t expect so close to the city.

All in all, Fort Wayne totally exceeded my expectations on this trip. My lackluster first visit can definitely be attributed to the freezing cold weather.

Do I have you convinced? What would you most like to see from my 36 hour itinerary?

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Cheap entertainment hack: Groupon ‘Things to Do’

Cheap entertainment hack: Groupon 'Things to Do'
Cheap entertainment hack: Groupon 'Things to Do'

This is a sponsored post. All opinions are mine.

Between moving apartments, changing jobs, and paying for transatlantic flights for my husband, I’m back to eyeing every penny. In direct opposition to that, I’m also (as usual) keen to keep my free time as busy and as fun as possible.

In my never-ending quest to try something new at least once a week, I’ve been forced to get creative. One of the more inspired ideas was introduced to me over Facebook: Groupon Things to Do.

Aside from being fun to say, it’s actually an amazing resource I feel like travelers are under-utilizing. Here’s a couple reasons travelers – especially local travelers – should head over ASAP.

Groupon is a surprising source of local travel inspiration

Did you know Groupon has an entire local ‘Things to Do’ section dedicated to brick-and-mortar spots near you? For a local lover like myself, the page is a total time-suck – in the best way possible!

In Indy alone, there are deals on museum fees, winery tours, concerts, and more. The local section is an especially good resource for discovering smaller restaurants and boutiques.

But if you’re looking for a little more adventure, Groupon has that too. Like, who would have ever considered a tour through a glass-blowing factory as a weekend activity?! I am now… and at a reduced price!

You can support local businesses without breaking the bank

I’m the first one to acknowledge supporting local is neither easy nor cheap. After all, a farm-to-table meal and a couple of craft beers can sometimes cost a week of groceries. Groupon is just one simple way to reaffirm your commitment to shopping local – without emptying your wallet.

As many people have discussed extensively, there are multitude of reasons to go local. Use every resource available to make that happen!

OK, your turn: drop your best money-saving tips for events in the comments below!
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10+ free weekend activity ideas!

10+ FREE WEEKEND ACTIVITY IDEAS!
10+ FREE WEEKEND ACTIVITY IDEAS!

I’ve recently taken to examining my spending a lot more closely than normal. I’ve got some big(ger) travel plans in my head and I’m ready to have some money in my bank account so I can actually get traveling!

Because of that, I’m trying extra hard to value experiences over things that cost money. Because even if you’re living with a near-zero bank account or you’re just trying to save up for something big, as long as you have a little bit of downtime, an experience is something you can absolutely make happen. I’d even deem creating experiences for yourself critical when money worries are on your mind – the break from the grind of working and worrying can be a real game changer.

Seriously.

Before we get started on these free things to do this weekend, a few notes: this lists assumes you have access to a phone, tablet, or computer and the internet. This also assumes, unlike many lists I’ve read, that you don’t have oodles of extra materials sitting around at home. (Seriously, a ‘free’ list that includes ‘make an elaborate craft with $100 worth of supplies you have sitting around at home’ or ‘create a five-course meal’ is BS in my book!).

Onward! 10+ free things to do this weekend:

Chase the horizon. An easy way to kick-start a mini-adventure: pick a spot in the distance and try to get there! If you’re in the city, find somewhere high up you can get to for free. Start from a tall office building and choose a new park or interesting landmark. If you’re somewhere without tall buildings, try a decent hill or mountain (or even Google Maps in a pinch!).

Spend a few hours writing, reading, and/or people-watching in your local library. I’m extremely fortunate to live just a five-minute walk away from Indianapolis’ Central Library which is not only massive and gorgeous, but full of amazing amenities that can keep you occupied for hours on end. Everyone also seems to forget that library cards are free and now even entitle you to free ebook downloads if you don’t feel like lugging around a physical book!

Download and dive into podcasts. Whether you download them onto your phone and head out into the world or just curl up under the covers, podcasts are the perfect way to be entertained or even learn something new. Check out The Atlantic’s list of 2015’s best podcasts or, if you’re looking for something strictly travel-related. I’ve given a couple of examples of awesome travel podcasts in this post.

Visit a local Instameet. The IGers group is super active and have tons of meetups. If you don’t know, an Instameet is basically a group of photographers meeting up at a cool spot, taking some pictures, and sharing them (with appropriate #hashtags, of course!). Most major – and even some not-so-major – cities have a group that puts on activities once a month or so.

Volunteer your time. You could be entirely selfless in your volunteering or you might even get something awesome in return (like how my husband and I volunteered to help at a winter food + beer event where we got free admission in return for a few hours of help!). To find volunteer options in your area, try Volunteer Match or contact local charitable organizations.

Organize a self-guided tour. I’ll talk a little bit more about this next week, but organizing a self-guided tour is a great way to get to know your town or city a whole lot better. Start by choosing a theme (for example, a historical neighborhood or up-and-coming restaurants or 20th-century architecture). Then, do some research, pick your locations, map out a route, and take your tour! Bonus points for showing it off to friends or family!

Search for an interesting recipe using ingredients you already have. I’m personally a fan of Supercook, which lets you list the ingredients you’ve got and then matches them to recipes in the site’s database. The more ingredients you add, the more options you get.

Go on a street art hunt. Pick a new place in town to visit and make a point to find and photograph at least 3-4 examples of street art or graffiti. There’s nothing better than a graffiti hunt to get you wandering down unexplored side streets, camera in hand. Trust me, that’s not nearly as sketchy as I just made it sound.

Find a local trade school and take a free class. I’ve mentioned before that Indianapolis has a wonderful trade school and many other cities have a similar model (ie. you trade something for entrance into classes). Find one nearby and sign up for a class that piques your interest – likely a traded skill, a story, or a baked good will be more than enough to gain entrance!

Complete the picture an hour challenge. Kerri from Crumbs in the Bed is the master of this challenge and I love the idea, which is exactly as simple as it sounds: take one picture for each hour you’re awake (7 AM, 8 AM or 7:25 AM, 8:25 AM; etc). Whether you post it on your blog, Instagram, or Facebook is up to you, but the simple act of taking stock of your day is pretty rewarding.

Seriously, try Geocaching. Check out that post laying out the details of what exactly geocaching is – I think a lot of people are surprised that it’s not just a kid activity. Whether you seek out hidden caches in warmer summer months or with a giant thermos of something warm in the winter, geocaching is great fun!

Host a potluck movie night. Grab a few friends and invite everyone to whip up a snack (or even a main dish) and come over for a movie night. Free movie options include: inviting everyone to bring one or two DVDs to vote on, grabbing someone’s Netflix account, or even finding one of the many (bad) free movies available on YouTube.

Sign up for a free version of Skillshare and take a class. While full access to Skillshare requires a paid account, the site does have a number of free classes on offer. I prefer Skillshare to other sites because there’s an across-the-board level of quality that many sites don’t match. Best of all, as soon as you sign up for an account, Skillshare lets you choose your interests so you can see classes tailored to your specific wants.

What free activities can you add to this list? I’m always looking for an exciting new experience!